In Luke 7 there is a story about an encounter between Jesus, a Pharisee and a sinful woman. It took place in a crowded room, but what happens between the three of them took centre stage. The crowd didn’t play any part in the drama.
Simon the Pharisee was a man who lived by the rules. The rules were designed to address every aspect of life and give a person the “right” things to do in every situation. If a person lived by the rules, they would prosper. They would also produce a lifestyle that pleased God and would bring the coming of the Messiah and the day of the Lord closer.
The rules said that sin was something that you could catch off a sinful person so, to the best of your ability, you avoided sinful people. You didn’t invite them to your house and, if they found their way in, you didn’t touch them, or allow them to touch you.
The woman in the story isn’t named. I suppose that the minute you name someone, he or she is someone other than you. The nameless ones could be you.
The woman was a woman who lived by breaking the rules. Perhaps she had started off a rule keeper but somewhere along the way she discovered that the rules were not written for her benefit. Very few options were available to women outside a husband, a home and a family. Maybe she had the lost the first option to the Roman occupiers, lost the second option to debt collectors and needed to find a way to feed and clothe the last option. She was not given a back story. She was just a woman that has lived a sinful life.
The strict keeper of the law met the flagrant breaker of the law and Jesus was their meeting point.
To some extent Jesus was both a keeper of the law and a breaker of the law. Simon’s law was not really worth keeping. It wasn’t really written for anyone’s benefit. Those that tried to keep it jumped through all the necessary hoops, and in the process lost their joy and compassion. They thought that God could be won over by the appearance of goodness.
The law that Jesus kept would not allow him to push aside a person in need. He could not condone her sinful lifestyle, but neither did he want her to continue living that way. Both of them, Simon the Pharisee and the woman, were living destructive lives.
Simon lived by the rules.
The woman lived by breaking the rules.
Jesus lived by re-writing the rules.
Think over some of the things that Jesus asks his followers to do. He asks us to love our enemies, to turn the other cheek, to forgive the one who has hurt us and to go with someone an extra mile. It feels like Jesus is asking the impossible. In the natural – it is impossible. But the one who re-writes the rules also gives us all that we need to do what He asks.
Today in my workplace a strict keeper of the law (me) met a flagrant breaker of the law (someone wearing a hat). It was only after the encounter (most unpleasant) that I realised that Jesus had not been invited to be a part of the encounter.
Jesus re-writes the rules of all my encounters if I invite him to be a part of them.